Redundancy Can Be The Key

AEC Lyle Olmsted, KB7PI, showing off the new Bridgecom Repeater at the last training session.

Redundancy.  According to the dictionary, redundancy is the “inclusion of extra components that are not strictly necessary to functioning, in case of failure in other components”.  You carry a spare tire in your car for redundancy, in case you have an unexpected flat.  The airplane that flies you to Hawaii for your vacation depends on multiple computers to get you there, in addition to the pilots.  Redundancy.

We preach redundancy within our team as well, although perhaps on a smaller scale.  If you carry a flashlight in your go-bag, it is recommended that you carry at least one set of replacement batteries.  Two sets are better yet.  You’ve heard me preach “three levels of redundancy” more times than you would like.  If you carry an HT, you should be carrying an extra battery pack AND either a spare battery pack that will use AA batteries or one that will allow you to plug into your car’s power system to recharge… or both.  Redundancy.  Each of our emergency communication vans have three levels of power redundancy – a battery system dedicated to the radios, a generator and shore power.  Even the radio system uses multiple radios just to make sure communicaitons can happen if a failure occurs.

This week, we are almost ready to put our brand new Bridgecom repeater system into operation.  This, too, is

The duplexer portion of the new repeater system ready to mount

a redundant system.  Our current repeater is fully operational, and is located at a local fire station up on a hilltop.  The station is basically bullet proof and should survive even a large earthquake but the antenn is 70′ up on a 120′ tower.  While a large generator would keep the repeater in operation, there is a slight chance the tower might not survive a large earthquake.  Our new backup repeater is to be located in a team member’s home at about the same height as our main repeater.  Should an earthquake occur, we have a great power back up system available and the antenna, should it fall, could be replaced easily.  Our third level of redundancy is even simpler.  Our entire response area can be reached using a simplex frequency and an HT.

Every one of us hopes the predicted 9.0 earthquake off the Washington/Oregon coast doens’t happen any time soon, but it is part of our job as an emergency communications team to be ready for whatever may come along.  We’ve lost telephone communications here during much smaller earthquakes and there is no reason to believe it won’t happen again, so best to be prepared.

What’s your redundancy level at your home or business?  Are you depending on a simple HT and no back up power systems?  You just might want to think about some additional power systems.  Redundancy.  It just might save your life.